It used to be said that every person could say that they knew where they were when they heard the news that US President, John F Kennedy, had been assassinated. Nowadays, they can say the same about when they heard the news that Diana, Princess of Wales had died after a car crash in a Paris underpass.
Diana, Princess of Wales was the former wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne. She suffered fatal injuries when the car she was travelling in crashed into the thirteenth pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. The car was being chased by paparazzi determined to get the one million pound shot of her and Dodi Fayed, her new boyfriend. Dodi and the driver, Henri Paul, died on impact. Diana was brought out of the wrecked car alive, but she suffered a cardiac arrest soon after and her internal injuries proved unsurvivable. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, employed by the Al Fayed family, suffered serious injuries but survived the accident, he was the only person in the car who had worn a seatbelt.
Diana had spent the summer enjoying a new romance with Dodi and the global press demand for photos was immense. A crowd of photographers had gathered at the front of The Ritz, where Diana and Dodi had dined. They had decided to move on to another Al Fayed Paris property and left via the rear exit of the hotel. A decoy car was to set off from the front of the hotel but the paparazzi were not fooled, those on motorcycles gave pursuit. In the aftermath of the crash, seven paparazzi were arrested.
Henri Paul’s autopsy blood tests proved to be three times over the French legal limit for alcohol. Conspiracy theorists and there are many, along with countless Diana murder theories, dispute this. Trevor Rees-Jones and another Al Fayed bodyguard, Kes Wingfield, insisted that they would have been alerted if they had witnessed any sign of intoxication of Henri Paul. However, what is certain is that the car that the four were travelling in was being driven at least twice the speed limit.
Diana, Princess of Wales was declared dead at 4 a.m. at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, Paris. There were other hospitals closer to the accident site but she was transferred to that hospital for its expertise in chest trauma.
Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana’s two sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes travelled to Paris to escort Diana’s coffin back to England where it was placed in the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace. The night before her funeral her body was moved to her home at Kensington Palace. Kensington Palace was the focal point of the public’s grief after Diana’s death and it was where people came to pay their respects, leaving flowers in remembrance.
Diana’s funeral was held on Saturday 6 September 1997 at Westminster Abbey with two thousand invited guests. An estimated one million people lined the route in London to witness her coffin, draped in a Royal Standard, being taken to the service on a gun carriage. She was escorted on her journey to the Abbey by her two sons, Princes William and Harry, Prince Charles, Prince Philip and her brother, Charles, Earl Spencer. It had a global television audience of around 2 billion people.
Her funeral cortège was later driven to her family estate, Althorp, in Northamptonshire, where she was buried on an island in the centre of an ornamental lake. On the journey north, members of the public threw flowers at the hearse resulting in the hearse having to stop for a short while to remove flowers from the windscreen. Her burial was private and attended by close family.